Montana Farm Bureau Representatives Share Successes of Recent Trade Mission to Taiwan
Six representatives of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) traveled to Taiwan in early November to visit with trade officials and business leaders about further opportunities for partnership with the country that ranks sixth in agricultural products trade with the United States. This trade mission was led by Governor Gianforte and included representatives from Montana’s agricultural, manufacturing, photonics, and bioscience industries.
Montana Farm Bureau representatives included President Cyndi Johnson, MFBF Executive Vice President Scott Kulbeck, past District 8 Director Ken Johnson, current MFBF District 2 Director J.M. Peck, and MFBF District 10 Director Jim Willis, along with MFBF Senior Director of Governmental Affairs Nicole Rolf. In April, MFBF met with a Taiwanese trade delegation interested in the Treasure State's agricultural commodities, especially beef and wheat. MFBF met regularly with the leading agencies throughout the past year to help guide the schedule and prepare attendees for a successful meeting.
In addition to the agricultural trade representatives, technological industries represented a growing technology industry in Montana, including photonics and bioscience, which can strengthen the partnership between Taiwan and Montana.
“Montana wheat holds a well-established place in Taiwan’s food system and they consistently import substantial quantities from the United States. Flour millers in Taiwan appreciate the high-quality milling attributes our wheat exhibits,” noted Rolf. “Likewise, Taiwanese consumers enjoy our wheat. We learned that wheat products have surpassed rice products in per capita consumption. Taiwanese consumers appreciate the high-quality beef raised in the United States and are willing to pay top dollar for our premium product. There seems to be immense opportunity for growth in this sector, as well as in the technology industry. It was very exciting to learn that there is still room for growth with a well-established trading partner like Taiwan.”
After an initial cultural tour of the National Palace Museum, the agricultural representatives got down to business the rest of the week. The packed schedule included meetings, tours, and dinners with trade officials and business executives from companies that import and utilize American-grown commodities. The group started with meetings at the Taiwan External Trade Association (TAITRA) & Taiwan Trade Office. They visited Breeze Nan Shan, a larger organic store where they learned about product demand and pricing, Tops Foods, a significant importer of Montana grains, and the China Grain Products Research & Development Institute, created in 1962 by the Taiwan Wheat Products Promotion Council. The organization invites experts & flour companies to work together on food projects. The group also toured Taichung Port, where grain is imported from the USA.
After studying the grain business, the focus shifted to beef, where the group visited Mayfull. Established in 1963, Mayfull is one of the largest food importers in Taiwan, specializing in beef, and includes a steak aging facility.
Montana Farm Bureau Federation hosted a networking dinner featuring U.S. beef at the Mayfull Steakhouse. President Johnson welcomed the delegation, thanking the Mayfull company for their hospitality. Board members J.M. Peck and Jim Willis sat with Mayfull CEO Jack Lee, his son Director Hank Lee, and Governor Gianforte. The two ranchers shared how Montana cattle are raised and why Montana produces the highest quality of beef in the world.
“I gave the Lees and Governor Gianforte ballcaps from our ranch. Although, from what I saw in a week, ballcaps aren’t common headgear in Taiwan, they were excited to receive them,” said Peck. “I explained the significance of the cattle brands, which they weren’t familiar with, and they could share pictures of our cattle. As beef connoisseurs, they were more interested in the cows than the picturesque vistas and mountains of the ranch. It was the pinnacle of the trip as a beef producer, meeting with the folks who import and market the products we sell. They share the same passion for beef as we do on our ranch.”
“The trip was a whirlwind tour of critical agricultural industries in the beautiful country of Taiwan,” said Conrad small grains farmer Cyndi Johnson. “Dignitaries of government, education, and trade hosted us. It was encouraging to see the amount of thought and effort Taiwan dedicates to their consumers on that island for Montana grain. On a tour, they talked about the history of Montana grain in Tawain, which has overtaken rice as a staple. In their baking school, they have people worldwide working to develop products with Montana wheat. It makes us proud to know we can give them the quality they want. They are amazingly creative.”
The MFBF president added that their value of the United States and democracy was apparent. "They admire us, honor the Montana relationship and love Americans.”
“We were extremely honored to be a part of Governor Gianforte’s Trade Mission to Taiwan,” said Kulbeck. “Taiwan is a freedom-loving democracy and a great trade partner. They love American agriculture, especially Montana beef and Montana wheat. We shook hands with the decision-makers purchasing Montana agricultural products and told them we value our relationship. It’s important to maintain trade partnerships, especially with those with whom we have shared values.”
Peck noted, “The Governor’s Office, MFBF, and the other partner organizations did a great job putting the trip together and promoting Montana agriculture. As a cattle rancher, I think the best part was getting to meet the people of Taiwan and get some impressions of the food they eat and the culture around it. It was important to learn about their food concerns, how we can better market our products, and make some connections to promote more beef exports with Taiwan.”
“All the people were very nice and share many common values with the United States,” Peck added. “Having these things in common makes us good partners to trade with as we agree on the values and methods used to get food from the ranch to the dinner plate, even when the plate is across the Pacific Ocean.”
Willis said it was impressive to meet with the people who work on the trade deals with the Treasure State and that it was essential to meet with them following the governor’s re-opening of a trade office in Taipei two years ago.
“They are our top trading partner for Montana wheat so we must maintain that relationship with them and also continue to promote our high-quality Montana beef to their consumers. Last year alone, we imported $16 million in sales of Montana beef to Taiwan."
Upon completing the trade mission, Rolf added, “Governor Gianforte’s Trade Mission went a long way to reinforcing our established relationships and opened a lot of doors for new ones. It was an honor for our organization to be a part of this mission.”
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